How Podnews became the podcast industry’s most influential newsletter
While podcasting has been around since the mid-aughts, it’s only within the last half decade that the industry started generating significant revenue, finally crossing $1 billion in 2021. And until recently, there were very few journalists who were solely dedicated to writing about podcasts. That’s a big part of the reason that in 2017 James Cridland decided to launch Podnews, a B2B newsletter that covers the industry.
A longtime radio veteran who once worked for the BBC, James realized that there was a major need for a daily news digest of all the various startups and media outlets that were operating in the space. And as his readership grew, he found that there were plenty of companies willing to pay to reach his hyper-niche audience.
In my interview with James, we talked about his approach to compiling his newsletter, his monetization strategy, and why he insists on coding most of his tools from scratch.
Watch our interview in the video embedded below:
Hey James, thanks for joining us.
[00:00:01.544] James Cridland:
Oh, it’s a great pleasure. Thank you for asking.
[00:00:03.518] Simon Owens:
So we’re going to talk about how you basically formed this incredibly influential newsletter within the podcast industry. But first I just wanted to hear kind of like the origin story. Can we start by talking about your career before you launched your newsletter? Like you spent decades in radio, including some time at the BBC, right?
[00:00:20.815] James Cridland:
Yes, I have. Yeah. So I spent more than 30 years in radio now, which is quite a scary thing. I was originally, I’ve done some things on the air a long, long time ago, but I wasn’t very good at that. But I was working for the original Virgin Radio about 20 years or so ago. And I ended up launching both the first streaming app for a radio station, which I was very proud about doing, in March of 2005. It worked on five Symbian phones. And also that year also launched the first daily podcast from a radio station as well. So that was back before Apple had even put podcasting into the iPod. So yeah, so very much sort of worked on that sort of side of it. And I’m a radio consultant. I go and speak at conferences and things like that. And it was in a bar in LA where the idea of pod news came about.
[00:01:19.641] Simon Owens:
Well, before we get to that, so like you have like, did you develop like coding and tech skills while you were working in radio? Like, were you building products or what was your kind of role?
[00:01:29.294] James Cridland:
Yeah, I was very lucky in that I’ve always been able to program and able to code and stuff like that. And I was always very interested in what you could do with radio, which many people think of as quite an old fashioned medium, what you can do with radio when you start coding and when you start coding and when you start sort of, you know, look at look at how the internet might be able to cope with it. Look how you look what you can do with, you know, SMS messages and with email and stuff. When I was on the air, I was the first local radio DJ in the whole of the UK to read out an email address, which sounds very good until you realize that it was a CompuServe email address. And nobody’s going to ever write down 100–112.2320 at compuserve.com. So, you know, it probably sounded better on the air than anything else. But yeah, and so I was always really fascinated at that. So I ended up putting a website up for the radio station that I was working at in about 1995. And that was fascinating, you know, seeing people beginning to use the internet to learn more about the brands that they were listening to, the people that they were listening to and all of that. So yeah, really, really interesting, interesting times. And that’s what I’ve always been fascinated with is both having the technology and the understanding there in terms of, you know, what the technology will enable me to do, but also being able to, you know, come at this from a radio production background and understand, you know, what you can do from the point of view of voice and stuff like that. And what was your view of podcasting and what
[00:03:14.104] Simon Owens:
was your colleagues around you view of podcasting? Did they view it as this disruptive technology? I know the BBC has a reputation of kind of like a sclerotic, like kind of digging in its heels type of reputation. What was kind of the view within your workplace on that? Within your workplace on podcasting? Yeah, I mean, so I was working for
[00:03:34.675] James Cridland:
Within your workplace on podcasting? Yeah, I mean, so I was working for one of the large commercial radio companies for a while, and they very much saw podcasting as being something that they might be able to earn a little bit of money out of. And in fact, the daily podcast that we launched in March of 2005, we’d actually been doing the tech for it for a couple of months before that. But that daily podcast came with advertising on it. We called it podvertising. Sorry about that. But one of the first advertising was the UK government through the Central Office of Information, which sounds very Orwellian. And there was also an advertiser, I think it was Orange, the mobile phone company. But in any case, you know, so and I think so they were open to it. Yeah. So I think we saw that as a radio company, we were very, you know, the radio station was the first to stream online back in the late the late 1990s. And I think we felt very strongly that there was a real opportunity in additional platforms. Now, this was a rock music station on AM. And so already you’re seeing that there’s a problem here. And so being able to be available in as many different platforms as possible, get our content out there in as many different places as possible, was really important to us. And so, you know, podcasting was clearly one of those opportunities that we had. And the figures were incredible, by the way. I mean, in the first year, we were seeing somewhere in the region of 10,000 downloads to each additional to each episode. And it was a daily show. So you know, so the downloads back then were amazing, but then there weren’t that many shows. And we had the benefit of being a well-known and global brand that people would have have have recognized in their podcast player, whereas quite a lot of the other stuff wasn’t necessarily as recognizable, you know, so we had
[00:04:26.734] Simon Owens:
[00:05:46.705] Simon Owens:
were you avid listener? Were you listening to mainstream shows, indie shows, different
[00:05:54.855] James Cridland:
stuff? Yeah, I started listening to Buzz Out Loud from CNET, which was very good, Leo Laporte, and the Twit Network, and all of that. So I was listening to a fair amount of these of these individual shows, and also, frankly, listening to the Breakfast Show of my own station, because I would commute into work on the London Underground. And the London Underground is great for many things, but not so good if you’re a radio listener. So I would never hear it. So I was always actually consuming the podcast and the podcast version we put, we had various things, various algorithms of which bits of the show made it into into the podcast. And so I was listening to, you know, all of that, plus the BBC had jumped in, I say jumped in had sort of, you know, put some very tentative, you know, attempts to see whether podcasting was a good thing. So they had three or four shows which were available as podcasts at the time. And I remember I was really I was really
[00:06:58.120] Simon Owens:
into Mayo and Kermode. That was like one of the first podcasts I was listening to in like,
[00:07:06.878] James Cridland:
I want to say 2006 or 2007. Yeah, yeah. So yeah, you’re right. I mean, you know, I mean, Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode who still do a great film show. Yeah, you know, the BBC, I think, this was a time at the BBC where they were less worried about failure, they were less worried about what would happen if things went wrong. And I remember I worked for the BBC for two years. And I think I enjoyed myself in one day in those two years. But I do remember at one point, I was trying to do something with the radio streams. And, and one of my colleagues said, Well, who is going to go and apologise when it all goes wrong? Who’s the who’s the lead on that? And I was thinking, gosh, if that’s how you plan things of who’s going to apologise when it all goes wrong, then there’s probably a problem here somewhere. So yeah, it was a fascinating, fascinating two years of my life. I’m glad I did it in some ways. But my goodness, it was certainly
[00:07:58.650] Simon Owens:
[00:08:15.205] Simon Owens:
it was certainly an experience. And so you’re working all these years, both at full time in radio and also as a radio consultant. And then there comes a time that you’re what, at like an industry conference or something. And this is when the concept of a podcast newsletter
[00:08:29.481] James Cridland:
first came up. Yeah, so I’ve been writing a sort of a weekly-ish newsletter around radio and radio trends in terms of you know, what’s happening to radio across the world. And I was chatting to a friend of mine at the International Radio Summit, which was in LA. I’m not sure how international it really was. I think I may have been one of the only international people there. But nevertheless, chatting to a friend of mine, and he was saying, you know, what do you know about podcasts? And I said, Well, you know, a few things, you know, I’ve been involved in that sort of area for a while. And he said, Where do you get your news about podcasts? And I thought, that’s a really interesting question. Because at the time, there was one podcast newsletter that was going out every week or so. And it was Hot Pod that was very much focused on the Brooklyn scene of, of podcasting and not necessarily having a look at the entire industry and certainly not having a look at anything outside of the US. And I thought
[00:09:32.627] Simon Owens:
to myself, yeah, at the time, at the time, Hot Pod was run by Nicholas Qua. And it was kind of just like whatever whimsical thing that he wanted to focus on that week, he would write like an essay about it. It was by no means like a comprehensive overview of what was going on, on a day to day or weekly basis within the podcast industry in terms of who was getting hired. I mean, he did he dabbled in a little stuff, that stuff eventually. But like, there was you could it’s not like you could get like a snapshot and feel like you would you knew what was everything that every major news story that was going on in the podcast industry by reading his newsletter. It was but it’s more like kind of like an insider type essayist type thing. Yeah, I think you’re right. And I think,
[00:10:11.879] James Cridland:
you know, I mean, in my first year of doing pod news, I used to link to Hot Pod religiously every week and say that, you know, the latest issue is out and it’ll take 47 minutes to read. Yeah, which was a little bit mean of me. But yeah, I mean, you know, it was a good read. But what I was very aware of is that the you know, the growth in the podcast industry is very, very strong. And actually, there’s a real requirement for people who are brand new to the industry to understand it. And there was no one there was no publication, which would help you understand what was going on in this industry. And there was plenty in terms of radio. There’s plenty in terms of other areas. But in terms of podcasting, there really wasn’t anything. And so, you know, had that conversation, and that got me thinking, you know, is there something that I can do here? Is is that a good merging of my skills coming from, you know, the the technical side of radio and audio? Is there something that I can do there in terms of a daily newsletter for podcasting? And so yeah, and so that’s where where the whole idea, you know, essentially came from. And what what year was that
[00:11:23.985] Simon Owens:
[00:11:27.934] James Cridland:
that the conference? Yeah, and so that was May of 2017 was the conference. And by the end of June, I had published the first edition of pod news, which I think had three stories in it. And I began to get a little bit concerned about how I would fill it every single day.
[00:11:46.817] Simon Owens:
But 2017, that was after the first season of Serial. It was after people started to realize that it wasn’t it wasn’t a huge market, but they could tell it was going to be huge eventually.
[00:12:02.241] James Cridland:
Yeah, I was going to say exactly right. You know, you could see that individual companies were ramping up their investments into the podcast industry. You could see that there were beginning to be real proper ad dollars going into this. So serial was a seminal moment in that it was one hit that everyone was talking about. And that was very exciting in 2014. That was very exciting for a lot of a lot of people who had not discovered this whole new world of, you know, how how you could deliver, you know, some audio on demand to people. And I think it took therefore a couple of years after that to actually begin people to understand there is actually a proper business here. And within, you know, a year or so of pod news starting, you know, obviously I heart jumped in with both feet. Entercom at the time jumped in, you know, there was a lot of money beginning to be spent. And of course, Spotify, you know, as well, adding podcasting in there, too. So, yeah, so I think it was a great time where the industry was just getting going. I was lucky enough to spot that there might be something there in terms of a daily newsletter specifically aimed at those people within the industry. And on the other side, the industry is a very solo lonesome industry for quite a lot of people. You know, quite a lot of people aren’t working in large companies, having conversations around the water cooler or whatever people have conversations around these days. You know, they were very much, you know, one or two people working on some great shows and really wanting more connection with the rest of the industry. And I thought there was an
[00:13:58.510] Simon Owens:
opportunity there. And there was a real talent problem at the time because, like most of the of the shows that had some kind of narrative arc that took like extra skill in terms of production, stuff like that. They basically were kind of all coming out of public radio and there wasn’t really like outside of public radio, there was nobody trained, at least in the US, there wasn’t really anybody training people to do that kind of audio storytelling. Now it’s a little bit different. There are people who aspire to do that and they kind of learn it on their own or their podcast companies that kind of trade that, train that. Yeah, it’s interesting what you say about serial. There was a few seminal moments there was in the podcast industry. There was obviously when the iPod started or iTunes officially started, you know, creating a podcast tab. There was when Apple launched a separate podcast tab. There was serial, which really kind of exploded awareness of a podcast. And then I think the next seminal moment was the hundred million deal with Joe Rogan signed to Spotify. I think that’s when people really woke up to the business side of podcasting. So you were kind of nestled between those two big seminal moments. You chose Podnews, it’s a very generic name. Did you just want it to be very like people to understand exactly what they’re getting when they get your newsletter? Yeah, I mean, you know, very much the SEO
[00:14:45.490] James Cridland:
[00:15:18.362] James Cridland:
plan of, you know, in the UK, there was an ad for a varnish called Ronseal. And the ad literally said, you know, Ronseal quick drying varnish does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a quick drying varnish. And I thought, okay, does exactly what it says on the tin is exactly it. The benefit of Podnews is that it is a unique name. I had run and I still do run a media information website, which is called Media Info. Media Info is not a trademarkable name, whereas at least Podnews is. So I was sort of pleased to have found something which hopefully says what it says what it does. But is also a mark that I can protect as well, you know, so there’s always that kind of side of it as well. And so you launched in June 2017. What platform did you launch on?
[00:15:55.487] Simon Owens:
[00:16:14.050] Simon Owens:
So I launched on my own platform. So all the way through this, I thought to myself, okay,
[00:16:19.365] James Cridland:
I’ve got a full time job working with these radio clients who I’m working with and going to places and doing conference speaking and all of that. So therefore I need to build something which is which is really simple for me to do in case I’ve only got a very limited amount of time to end up doing it. And so the likes of I mean, Substack didn’t exist at the time, but the likes of that or MailChimp or anything else far too manual, I thought, for what I was going to end up doing. I wanted to make sure that I did this properly and the benefit of being a good radio host and the benefit of being a coder, if not being a very good coder, is that I could actually cobble together a few things which would make my life an awful lot easier. So, yeah, so I started on my own platform, which I’m still using now, which enabled me to launch pretty fast, but also enabled me to keep an awful lot of control over that workflow, which is a really important thing.
[00:17:29.093] Simon Owens:
Yeah, and that’s going to be a consistent theme in this interview is you building tools that you want to have in the world, basically. So your newsletter, let’s talk a little bit about the format. You know, one thing I love about your newsletter is it comes it’s in because you’re in Australia. It’s in my inbox by the time I fire up my computer and I like how digestible it is. It’s very curational. The newsletter itself, like you do do some longer stuff, but you don’t publish the longer stuff within the newsletter. Sometimes you’ll publish it on your website and then link to it from the newsletter, but the newsletter is very easy to scan. That was always the kind of your goal, you know, from the very beginning? Yeah, so there’s two things there. There’s the
[00:17:43.791] James Cridland:
[00:18:08.479] James Cridland:
time and there’s the newsletter format. The time is a happy accident of me living the other side of the world here in Australia. And nine o’clock at night, my time is six in the morning New York time. So perfect for getting a daily newsletter out, but also perfect for me because that could mean that I could have the rest of the day working on other things and I would still have a couple of hours if I needed to to get pod news out of the door. So I was, you know, very happy about the timing of it. And also to be honest, the format was very much based on how, again, that workflow, how quickly I could get something produced that was a good quality product, but at the end of the day, you know, I didn’t have the time to do what I’ve seen many other people do. And that’s a full newsletter with lots of information about every single story. There used to be one that I used to read an awful lot in the radio industry called Tom Taylor Now. And, you know, that was an awful lot of reporting every single day. And I thought, you know, there’s no way, A, there’s no way that you can make that really work from a time versus effort point of view, but also B, you know, it’s not necessarily what people want. At the end of the day, people really want one or two sentences, which is what is this story and a click to go and find out more if you do want to find out more. And so very much focusing on that format was helpful because it then, of course, means that it’s, you know, scalable, a scalable thing that, you know, hopefully works quite well for people.
[00:20:00.664] Simon Owens:
Yeah. And then you divide the newsletter into several sections. One’s just kind of straight news. One is kind of like higher, like major hires and stuff like that. And then you also have, like, one for just new episodes, new podcasts that are launching, right? So it’s like you have these different sections. And I usually just stick to the news section and the moves and hires, but
[00:20:16.155] James Cridland:
[00:20:25.774] James Cridland:
there’s also like a technical side as well. Yeah. And part of that is monetization because as I grew, it was obvious that just the title sponsor isn’t necessarily going to pay for everything. And so therefore having additional sections which are sponsorable is a useful, you know, is a useful plan there. And some of the, you know, some of those sections are specifically because they are a sponsorable property that particular people want to end up sponsoring. But also some of those sections that you see in the Pond News newsletter every day, there’s a jobs section, there’s an events section, there’s a who’s number one in the charts at the moment. All of those are automated. I felt that there was an opportunity for a jobs board and so I built one. I felt that there was an opportunity for an events board and so I built one. And the newsletter pulls that information into the, you know, into the newsletter every single day. And I need to do no work to do that, but that’s additional helpful content for those people that actually want it. So yeah, there’s a good amount of, it’s not quite automation, but there’s a good amount of, you know, additional information in there which I need to spend no time on at all. So you launched in 2017.
[00:21:46.589] Simon Owens:
How did people start finding the newsletter? So I’m, you know, I was lucky in that I had,
[00:21:51.415] James Cridland:
I had and I still do, that radio newsletter that went out every week or so, which was a good sort of way of at least getting the story out. I also run a media information website and because that media information website was at the time sending out 20,000 emails every single day, which were all completely automated with news from the media industry, that was a good place to market it as well. But I very quickly realized that another way of marketing that newsletter is just to be helpful to people and to pop up in the Facebook groups, in the subreddits, in Twitter and help people with questions that they had about podcasting. That gave me firstly a great opportunity to learn about what was interesting to people. But secondly, it meant that I could produce quite a lot of evergreen content that would go aside the newsletter and allow me to link to, you know, so how the podcast stats were, for example. How long should a podcast be? Where’s the research in terms of that? You know, those sorts of evergreen articles, which are never going to go out of date, are really helpful to be able to link people to and for people to go, oh, this is really useful information and they produce a daily newsletter. Fantastic, I will get that. So there’s a bunch of that that happens, you know, throughout. And that was really helpful in beginning to grow the newsletter and beginning to grow how many people got it. And I got very excited when, you know, it wasn’t too long. It was a month or a couple of months when I’d hit a thousand people getting the newsletter. And I realized that there’s, you know, there is a
[00:23:51.430] Simon Owens:
now you’re the kind of main source for curating podcast news is you get a lot of press releases, which you basically are able to just put on the website of Podnews and then the newsletter links those press releases. So it kind of creates, so you’re able to, even though those press releases are on every single website, you’re driving traffic to yourself in that sense. So you can
[00:24:17.367] James Cridland:
I’ll be honest, if they publish their press release anywhere else on their own site, then I will perfectly happily link to that. I don’t necessarily want additional work copying and pasting press releases. So any way that I can avoid doing that the better. But I did realize very, very quickly that I needed two things. I needed an easy way to be able to publish people’s press releases if they didn’t have any site that they have published those on, so that I could actually link to those. So I realized that I needed that pretty early on. And I also realized that actually podcasts as well, I needed somewhere to link to podcasts because I can’t link to a specific podcast, but only link to Apple or only link to Spotify because people don’t use Apple or Spotify exclusively. So I realized that I needed also podcast pages to be able to at least link to that podcast in a standard way. And so yeah, having to build both of those was not necessarily what I necessarily wanted to do, but it was really useful in, again, some of that comes down to search engine optimization. Some of that comes down to additional information that you can tweet about and additional data resources that you can actually use to find new stories around. But yeah, you know, very much, you know, I think that I’m very lucky in being able to code, finding coding interesting as well, and being able to use that as part of my point of difference in comparison to
[00:26:06.008] Simon Owens:
get a better understanding of what you’re saying. So you created a way to pull in basically every podcast into a page that exists on Podnews. What does that mean? Like it’s almost like an IMDB or like a profile page for every single podcast that you can link to whenever you’re mentioning a
[00:26:25.735] James Cridland:
podcast? Yeah, that’s sort of pretty well it and it’s links to, you know, where this particular podcast is on a variety of different players. But also because that means that I have a database of podcasts, it means that I can do, you know, that all of a sudden gives you more data and more stuff that you can write stories around. So I can begin to see when a particular company is losing lots of its customers to someone else, you know, I can begin to actually follow that because of the data that I actually have there as well. So yeah, so pulling in that data and that information is probably only really available for podcasting because podcasting is a very open platform. It’s got, you know, it runs on RSS feeds which are open and anybody can consume those. And so being able to use those has been, you know, really helpful. But, you know, I mean, again, I would probably rather that I didn’t have to build that. But the fact that those podcast pages exist in the platform, the fact that, you know, that I’ve been able to pull in press releases and pull in other information into there, you know, again helps because then, you know, for any news organization, as I guess that Podnews is, it’s helpful to have all of that additional data and additional information that you can then spot for stories, you know, as well. And what are some of the biggest
[00:27:54.430] Simon Owens:
stories you’ve put, you’ve published, like in which you were aggregating or analyzing data?
[00:28:01.652] James Cridland:
I mean, I think one of the first stories that I really was able to break as a long form piece of reporting was very early in 2018. So Podnews had been only going for six months, very early in 2018. And in fact, in 2017, I was tipped off that one particular publisher was doing things that were deliberately or not a bit naughty. But it was quite a complicated technical story, but I felt that it was a story that I could probably cover if I was able to write it up. And so that was a big story that went live in January of 2018 of essentially a large podcast publisher was appearing as number one in a chart, but appearing because they had done some naughty things on their own websites and were artificially inflating their numbers, which is a big, big story. So I was able to break that pretty quickly. And that was really interesting because that all of a sudden, lots of people linked to it. It was a well known brand. So lots of people were pointing to that. And that was a great opportunity to grow the amount of people that were getting the Podnews newsletter every single day. And one of the things that I very quickly did was rewrite some of the stories so that it would be, you can get the latest on this story if you subscribe to the newsletter and really start pushing a bunch of calls to action in there. But that was really helpful. And similarly, only a couple of years ago, in fact, it was last, was it last year? Was it January of this year? It may even be of January of this year. I was leaked a internal document that YouTube was showing podcast, large podcast publishers, about what the future of podcasting was going to be on the YouTube platform. And it had been sent to me not as, here’s what YouTube are planning, James, isn’t this exciting. It was sent to me as, you’re probably not interested in this. It’s just some hints and tips on how to use YouTube. And it was only after reading it that I thought, wow, no, this is much, much more. And so again, it’s just those nice big stories that you are fed occasionally, or that you can discover occasionally, that mean that they’re opportunities to make a real name for yourself. But luckily, I don’t have to write those every single day. Yeah, that company in the Shitty Tactics, iHeart,
[00:30:41.948] Simon Owens:
media recently got caught by Bloomberg basically doing some more shady tactics to inflate their download numbers using video game ads and stuff like that. So that’s definitely a recurring theme. So you said you got to a thousand within a few months, and then you’re up to tens of thousands now. Was it just like a slow, steady growth of word of mouth, or were there big spikes or…? Yeah, so I’m up to 25,000 now, which is a nice figure, or just about to break 25,000
[00:31:13.622] James Cridland:
at the time of recording. And yeah, quite a lot of it was slow and steady growth with peaks around those particular large stories. So whether it was that story about iHeart, and you can say all of those things about iHeart, I couldn’t possibly comment, or whether it was stories about… Why? Are there libel laws in Australia?
[00:31:39.880] Simon Owens:
[00:31:42.934] James Cridland:
No, libel laws in Australia and in the UK where I learned my law, are very much more focused than they are in the US. But also stories around Anker, what Anker have been doing, what Spotify, some of the interesting things that Spotify have been doing, all of those sorts of things. All of those sorts of stories. When you do get the opportunity to break a big story like that, then you do see a large number of new people joining. So quite a lot of it has been word of mouth, driven by those large stories that I’ve been able to actually break. But also driven, you know, I think one of the difficulties with something which is a niche newsletter, like a podcasting newsletter, and I’m not interested in podcast listeners, it’s podcast people in the podcast industry who I’m trying to reach. One of the difficulties is actually, where do you market yourself? Where do you advertise yourself? So, you know, Facebook groups and those sorts of things are really helpful, but also what’s really helpful ends up being conferences, ends up being making sure that you are a speaker or you are involved in those conferences to get your name out there. Make sure that you do media partnerships with as many of those sorts of events as you can do, so that the types of people going to a podcast conference, hopefully the types of people that would be reading a pod news every single day. But also I’m very aware of, you know, as I’ve continued to grow, there are now large podcast companies who, as you are onboarded and start working in that particular company, one of the things that you are told, apart from to get your pass from here and to, you know, and how to set your password and all of this boring stuff, is also go and subscribe to pod news, because that is how you will get a very clear understanding of what’s going on in the industry. And so, you know, tremendously grateful for those companies who are doing that, but that’s a, you know, a really, a really clear way that you can, you can see, you know, lots of new people who are joining those particular companies, trying to understand this new world that they’ve landed in. And that’s hopefully what, what I’m able to, you know, have a look at as well. When did you start monetizing
[00:34:10.827] Simon Owens:
[00:34:13.307] James Cridland:
the newsletter? Pretty well from the word go. I assumed that the easiest way to monetize the newsletter would be through Patreon and not offering anything special in Patreon, other than we’ll get your logo on the bottom of the website and of the newsletter, but not really offering anything more than that. And I think, you know, initially, initially I thought, you know, $10 a month, maybe, you know, it’s only reaching a couple of hundred people. And, and obviously, you know, going, going, going through that in, in time, the pricing has, has gone up, but yeah, it was very much focused around, around Patreon monthly subscriptions, monthly support is the phrase that I’ve always used there. And then having a look at, you know, are there opportunities in terms of title sponsorship? Is there opportunities in terms of classifieds and other things, but very much focused initially at just where can I get a variety of different companies? Because I didn’t want one company that would just payroll the whole thing because that’s a recipe for long-term disaster. You know, as you say, Simon, you know, talking about, you know, do you want, do you want to be only monetized through, through Facebook? No, you know, you need lots of different ways. And similarly, I didn’t just want one client. So I felt very strongly that it should be a lot of different people supporting me as, you know, as quickly as I could. And then having, having a look at more overtly commercial, you know, sponsorship and, you know, classifieds and everything else
[00:35:59.080] Simon Owens:
there. So with the Patreon, you say like, basically they pay and the only benefit is they get the logo at the bottom, but you don’t seem to think that like they don’t, they get much value out of that. Like they don’t think of that as like advertising where they’re going to see any kind of ROI from it.
[00:36:13.609] James Cridland:
I don’t believe that most people are doing that because of the ROI. I think most people are doing that because they can see their logo among their peers. And it, in many, you know, again, it’s a relatively new industry. And actually there aren’t too many industries out there which don’t have too many recognizable brand names. And so the fact that there are, you know, new entrants into this industry all the time, you know, they do need to make sure that people know of their name and recognize them as being part of the podcast industry. And so that’s been a helpful place where they can be part of that industry, you know, moving, moving forward. But I’ve always said if you’re looking for, if you’re looking for ROI, that’s not the place to be in. I mean, you will get lots of brand value out of that. But if you’re looking to sell stuff, then a logo isn’t really going to help you. But sponsorship and editorial focuses and all of the other things that we offer now are specifically built to enable you to be able to promote new, new products and new services that you actually have. And I should say, you know, I used to, in my dim and distant past, I used to write radio commercials. So, you know, and I’ve done quite a lot of training around what works, what doesn’t in terms of advertising. So, you know, so hopefully I can help these brands understand, you know, what’s best for them in terms of where they should be marketing and how they should be using the Podu’s newsletter to get over whatever it is that they want to get, to actually get over. Yeah. And then the other thing you, so one of the
[00:37:55.011] Simon Owens:
other things you hire, you do is a title sponsorship, correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s like you change the actual from address. So it’s like Pod News with Magellan or whatever the, so people see it before they even open up the newsletter, they see that branding within the kind of, not the subject, but the from line, right? Yeah, exactly right. So, and actually,
[00:38:16.830] James Cridland:
you can, you can go away and sell on that. So, you know, like any newsletter, there will be a certain amount which of newsletters which are delivered, but which are never opened, but which sit in somebody’s inbox. My open rate is 47%. So I’ve got a pretty good open rate in comparison to the typical industry average, but even so, I’m able to go back at the end of the month to the advertiser. So Pod Page is currently advertising as the title sponsor. And I know that X, you know, it’s received XT thousand views within people’s inboxes, even if they’ve never even opened that particular newsletter. And part of that was just, I was aware, you know, again, it’s my code that ends up doing that. It’s my code that knows who the title sponsor is. And I realized that I could tell the API of the, of the email system that I’m using, I could tell the API what the from name was. And I thought, oh, great. Oh, well, I might as well add the sponsor’s title in there. So quite a lot of that just came from what is possible. But, but I think it does offer additional value over and above the recognition that you get, the click throughs that you get, the, you know, the information that you get. And I think, you know, one of the things that I’ve used letters by and large, aren’t very good at doing is we’re not very good at comparing ourselves with other, with other advertising models. We will give people a click through figure, but the click through figure will always be quite low. Because if you think about it, you’re sending the same message to someone. If you’re sponsoring over a month, you’re sending the same message to somebody or, or it can be the same message to somebody every day for a month, to the same people. So really a click, you know, a cost per click basis is the wrong way of looking at how successful this campaign has been. We should be looking at clicks per person, rather than clicks per impression. So we should be, I think a little bit cannier in terms of how brands understand how successful that they’ve been. And I don’t think as a newsletter, as a brand, as a newsletter industry, we do ourselves any favors by, you know, quite often giving people a cost per impression, you know, basis, which or cost per click basis, which isn’t going to be
[00:40:48.739] Simon Owens:
particularly helpful. And then the title sponsorship you, you sell, it’s not like you’re changing that every day. You sell kind of long term, like I think months at a time, right? Yeah.
[00:40:57.092] James Cridland:
What we’ve been very lucky in being able to is we actually have a rule that you can only buy one month in a year. So as an advertiser, so because again, I don’t want the same advertiser there every single month. That’s not the case in terms of some of the sections that you can sponsor, but certainly in times of the title sponsor, I don’t want you to have ad blindness in terms of that. And I do want to make sure, you know, you can change the copy of that. If you’re a title sponsor, you can change the copy of that every single day. And some, and some advertisers have done because I want there to be, you know, visibility of who, who, who the title sponsor is and what messages that they actually have there. And because, you know, it’s got pretty good, robust figures around that. It means that you can actually test what, what offers work well and what offers don’t work well. It’s a really, it’s a really interesting way of testing, you know, what would happen if I use this word instead of that word, add the word free in what, what happens then. So actually, you know, you can do some quite interesting things based on the,
[00:42:14.295] Simon Owens:
hand coded a classified section. And I don’t know if your ears are burning, but I have like a regular pay, like a office hours, zoom call with my paying subscribers and Tegan Gardard, who is a famous political blogger in the US. He, he, he hand coded his own classified thing for his super popular website, but he said on the call, he was, he was raving about how he, I guess he had bought an ad on yours. And he was talking about how well designed it is and stuff like that. So it’s like a, it’s a completely self-service classifieds. You don’t have to touch it. They go in, they upload their credit card information. There’s like character limits, stuff like that. And it seems to be, those are people who are trying to advertise to other people. So they’re like posting things like tools, like enterprise tools that podcasts are sometimes they’re, they just trying to raise awareness for their podcasts. Although I wonder if that’s the best way to do that, but it’s completely all self-service, right? Yeah, it is completely all self-service. And
[00:43:13.442] James Cridland:
there’s, I mean, you know, there’s an interesting story of why I started doing that because I reckon that there was probably an opportunity there in terms of, you know, in terms of what, what you know whether or not people would, would want to spend money in a classified ad in that particular newsletter. So I reckon that there was an opportunity there. But I also have tried classified ads in other things in the past and in my radio newsletter in the past, and it’s failed dismally. So I thought to myself, right, I’m going to see what I can do here, see if I can produce something which is really simple, which is really straightforward in terms of a particular, you know, in terms of actually having a look at that, you know, seeing if I can get a classified ad system as quickly as possible. So I gave myself a day to code it. And half the day was writing a user registration system because I didn’t have that. And the other half of the day was writing the actual, the mechanics behind the, the, the classified ad system. And it’s specifically built so that it’s cheap for the first person to get in there. And so from that point, really helpful, because anybody can afford to advertise in there, but the costs very, very quickly ramp up so that you don’t have too many classified ads on any one day. Or if you do, then they’ve paid an awful lot of money,
[00:44:46.272] Simon Owens:
which is helpful. Oh, interesting. So it’s dynamic pricing. Yeah. So it’s dynamic pricing.
[00:44:48.145] James Cridland:
You know, it’s very simple algorithm, but it’s dynamic, you know, in terms of, in terms of that. So if you’re the fifth advertiser on one day, you will be spending a lot more than the first advertiser was. But I ended up, you know, coding that. I spent my day, I ended up coding something that was very minimum viable, you know, product. Not an awful lot of styling. But then again, one of the benefits is, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m awake while you lot are asleep in the US. And so I was able to go to bed, having put it live, woke up in the morning to find, I’d already had my first order and it was for over 500 US dollars. And I thought to myself, I should probably spend a little bit longer on this and make it look, look nice and everything else. But I’m really pleased at how it, how it has turned out. It’s a, I’m not a UX designer in any way, shape or form, but I think, you know, in terms of the, in terms of the user flow, it seems to work very well. And that, you know, of the three monetization angles that we’ve looked at, that is, that is a third. The Patreon stuff is a third and the sponsorship is a third. And I think that’s a really helpful place to be where you’ve got three quite different revenue, you know, revenue sources, which are feeding into helping keep this particular, you know, creative endeavor going.
[00:46:20.434] Simon Owens:
And you said that you had an automated job board. Do people pay to list on that?
[00:46:24.585] James Cridland:
People don’t. At some point, I’m sure that I will, I will add that I can’t quite work out what to charge people for. I have to be honest. Any, any ideas? Always, always welcome James at Crid.land. But yeah, I mean, so the jobs board is frankly a, you know, it’s a, it’s a traffic generator, traffic generator, you know, essentially for, for that, but also, you know, there is no jobs board for the podcasting industry or there wasn’t. And I felt that that was a real, a real opportunity. I’ve run jobs boards in the past, so I knew roughly how to, how to do that. And similarly, the events, there’s an events board because there’s a lot of different events in podcasting. And again, that is currently completely free. And again, the benefit of that is that I get to know what events are going on. I can reach out to some of those and partner with them and, and, you know, we can promote each other a little bit more. But also that’s great content. It’s great, it’s great stuff for other people to, to end up seeing. So yeah, you know, having that, having that coding background has been really helpful because it has enabled me to pull in this additional information, which, you know, hopefully makes for a richer experience when you’re reading that, that newsletter every day. And then you built another tool that’s kind of like,
[00:47:54.327] Simon Owens:
I just wrote about today, my newsletter, Substacks recommendation tool, where when people, you partnered with some other newsletters and either when you sign, when they sign up for your newsletter, it automatically recommends those other newsletters and then vice versa. So you’re kind of cross-pollinating newsletter subscribers. Yeah, exactly right. Yeah. So when you have,
[00:48:16.264] James Cridland:
when you have confirmed your email address to become a subscriber to Podnews or to Sounds Profitable or to any of the others, then the thanks page that it takes you to for confirming your email address also says, while you’re here, you might want to, you know, you might want to subscribe to these ones as well. And we see a large amount of people who go, oh, there’s that newsletter. I’ve never heard of that. I will, I will get that one too. And of course the benefit is I know that they are, I know that they have confirmed their email address. And so therefore the sign up flow is just ticking a tick box and away they go, which is, which makes life so much simpler. So yeah, so that’s been really helpful and, and, you know, growing that particular side. And one of the things that I do want to do is to look at something which is a bit more consumer focused in terms of podcasting, because I think there’s a real opportunity there as well. And obviously, you know, that, that will be a great way to begin to grow that particular, you know, that
[00:49:36.690] James Cridland:
newsletter? Yes. So I, I’m a big fan of RSS, not just for podcasting, but for reading news. And so I use InnoReader, which is a great RSS aggregator. There’s a lot of automated alerts that go into there as well. All of the newsletters that I subscribe to go into InnoReader as well. They have a, you know, an email to RSS service. So, so a lot of that comes in through reading a bunch of these things. I’m subscribed to the weirdest RSS feeds that I then filter out for any mention of podcasting. So I tend to find some really interesting stories that quite a lot of other people don’t. I also have to wade through email. Email is my biggest nightmare. And I would love to work out how to fix email. The person that ends up fixing email is going to be the richest man in the world or woman in the world. Because my goodness, you know, email is so, so broken. But unfortunately, I have to wade through a bunch of that, you know, as well. Typically, you know, I mean, I can spend, I can spend all day reading through all of that. But, but typically, it’s around 30 to 45 minutes of working out what the stories are, writing those up. The workflow tools that I’ve built to publish pod news make it make it really easy and simple for me to write things up. So I will write those up as you know, as quickly as I can. And, and yeah, and then and then, you know, so I can get a pod news out within about two hours if I really want to. Pod news also has a podcast version, which is included in that. And again, it comes down to workflow. The reason why I produce a podcast version of pod news is firstly, because it’s an additional sponsorship opportunity. But also it’s because that is my final read through of the newsletter. And you know, when you write a newsletter, it’s really easy to make to write stuff and to leave typos in there or to make it so that it doesn’t read very well and everything else. My final read through is me reading it out for the podcast. And that’s a great your your head is in a very different mind is in a very different, you know, place while you’re reading out the work that you have done. And so that’s a real a real opportunity. But yeah, but you know, the the tools that I’ve built have made it very easy and quick to end up getting something out very, very fast if I need to.
[00:52:23.669] Simon Owens:
Yeah, I’m pretty good at catching most of my typos. And I have two tricks for that. One is I never send a newsletter. You don’t have this luxury, but I do. I never send a newsletter on the day that I write it. I always sleep on it so that I’m looking at it a fresh pair of eyes. But then I also read it out loud as I’m editing it. And yeah, helps me not only identify typos, but also just really clunky sentences that need to be rewritten. So you spend two hours a day. Is that including the podcast? Yeah, I can spend two hours a day. I can spend considerably longer if I want
[00:52:47.125] James Cridland:
[00:52:52.035] James Cridland:
to. But yeah, but normally it’s two hours a day if I’m just doing a standard, a standard edition. Yeah. So normally it would be that. And that includes things like, you know, dealing with people’s press releases that they’ve sent in and and, you know, getting those onto the website if I need to. And and, you know, and all of that kind of side of it as well. Well, I know you make money
[00:53:19.187] Simon Owens:
other ways, but that’s a pretty good living if you could make decent revenue from that. You could make decent revenue from only two hours, two hours a day worth of work. So what are my final question is, like, what are the future ambitions or things you would want to do? Would you want to eventually hire reporters or do you like it just being a curational? Like, are there more ambitious things you want to do or is it just continuing to grow steady like you are now? Yeah,
[00:53:46.778] James Cridland:
I mean, I think slow and steady growth is always a really good place to be in because slow and steady growth usually means slow and steady decline as well. So from the point of from the point of having some vague certainty, then that’s really helpful. I would like to one of the drawbacks of writing a daily newsletter and very specifically daily, that includes public holidays because our public holidays are different to your public holidays. And so I publish every single weekday. So it would be quite nice to take a holiday occasionally. So I will be having a look at that in the future. That’s, by the way, one of the downsides of building your own tools and your own systems. I know exactly how my tools work, but I am publishing pod news every single day into an SQL database and I use an SQL UI in order to get it in there. There is no backend office system. There’s no CMS for that. Yeah, there’s no there’s no CMS. There’s a there’s a CMS for sticking press releases onto the site because I got bored of filling out the same fields every single time. But in terms of in terms of publishing pod news, there really isn’t because the amount of time that it would save me is minimal and the effort involved in writing that particular tool would be, you know, would be an effort. And I’m not a particular fan of doing that. But the downside is that no one else can do it. And, you know, and so when I caught covid after going to L.A. in March, then, you know, there were some very sparse newsletters, I’ll tell you. And the podcast was recorded by my wife or not recorded at all. You know, so there was, you know, so and so that’s something that I would like to be able to fix. But that’s, you know, obviously involves the tech side of it, as well as the human side of it. But also, you know, I do enjoy spending time doing longer form work, longer form reporting. I know that that works particularly well in terms of getting new readers into the into the newsletter anyway. And it’s something that I really enjoy doing. And so I’m hoping to be able to spend a little bit longer doing that, doing that sort of thing. And as I say, you know, growing to include something which is a bit more consumer focused, as well as the more industry focused side that I currently have. And it’s just working out quite what that would look like, you know, but I think that there’s real, real, you know, opportunity there. And I think, you know, the real opportunity that I’ve, I have learned out of all of this is learning some coding skills. You don’t have to be a super duper excellent coder, but learning some coding skills in order to save yourself time and effort, you know, is really important. So as one example in the in the Pod News newsletter every single day, there is a section called podcast news, which has a beautiful little thumbnail of a podcast and, you know, and it’s all laid out very nicely. So you can see all of the different podcasts which are just about to launch and everything else. All of that layout is completely automatic. My system notices when I’ve linked to a podcast and goes, Oh, he’s linked to a podcast, I will take the the thumbnail and I will lay this paragraph out in this way. All of that is completely automatic. And I think if you spend less time doing the not creative stuff, if you spend less time doing the tedious, boring things, then that frees you up to spend more time being creative. And I think anyone that enjoys creation and doesn’t like process will find any way that they can possibly do of just getting rid of as much process as possible. And so that’s what I’ve been very lucky because I know how to code, because I know how to get rid of all that kind of stuff that’s been super helpful to me in getting rid of all of the boring process that I can focus on, hopefully producing something that people really enjoy.
[00:53:55.840] Simon Owens:
growth usually means slow and steady decline as well. So from the point of from the point of
[00:58:15.563] Simon Owens:
kinds that I constantly encounter. There’s people like me who just want to focus on creating content and there’s people like me who just want to focus on the content and don’t want to spend as little time as possible thinking about the technical side. And so we’re the ones who compromise and use platforms like Substack because it’s a great out of the box sender, even though you can’t customize and it’s limited. But I don’t care. Like people, then there’s people like you I talked to and they’re like, how do you use that? How could you how could you not have control over everything and you represent that other kind of creator who likes that customized, like you’re an extreme version that you actually build everything, but then there’s slightly less extreme versions who like to use like MailChimp or ConvertKit or something like that. Yeah, yeah, for sure. And the stuff in the middle
[00:58:51.659] James Cridland:
and you represent that other kind of creator who likes that customized, like you’re an extreme version
[00:58:58.560] James Cridland:
[00:59:00.653] James Cridland:
and you know, and there’s nothing to stop you from, you know, doing a little bit of fun, you know, coding in Python or something to produce the newsletter that you can then copy and paste into Substack. That’s absolutely cool too. But I think, you know, just from, you know, as a way of life, focusing on spending less time on the process and more time on the creativity. I’m one of these, I am one of these boring people that code to relax. So, you know, I’m not probably particularly normal in that way, but you know, but I think that that’s been really helpful. And, you know, I know talking from a lot of creatives that, you know, that actually the thing that puts them off this type of stuff is just the, you know, having to press this button, having to press that button. There’s, you know, the tool, for example, it does my press releases that I built. I got bored of looking up, you know, place names and things. And so I’ve built in a little Google Maps, you know, API lookup into there. And then I got bored of having to press too many buttons in order to make that work. And so I ended up, you know, making it so that it was, you know, three button presses less. And all of that stuff is, I find quite interesting, quite fun anyway, but it’s all, it all comes down to less of the drudgery, more of the fun.
[01:60:36.469] Simon Owens:
Yeah. Well, James, those were all the questions I have for you. Where can people find you online?
[01:60:40.688] James Cridland:
Well, you could, you could start by going to Podnews and subscribing. It’s very good, I believe, podnews.net, or you can have a listen to the podcast version. It’s called Podcast Daily, and it’s available in every good podcast app and in quite, some quite bad ones as well. And also on your, on your smart speaker. And more personally, I have a sort of a personal website at james.credland.net, which, yeah, which is there and has more information about how to
[01:61:15.552] Simon Owens:
get in touch. Awesome. Well, this is a lot of fun. Thanks for joining me. Thank you so much.